Lately we’ve been reminding our church members that the church’s banking details have changed and that they can find the new BSB and Account Number in their church bulletin. For most of our lives we didn’t know (and probably didn’t care) what the church’s bank details were. Suddenly it has become important. The reason is that many of us now support our church financially by transferring money from our own account to that of the church via EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) – for which we (obviously!) need the church’s bank details.
Does it matter that we now use EFT? Not really. Churches have many ways of raising funds for the ongoing support of their work. Traditionally in our churches that has been by means of the Sunday worship service collection. But I preached in a church once where there was no collection during the worship service. Instead there was a box by the door into which people placed their pledges and gifts. In that church nothing was even said about how you could support the church financially. A visitor would have needed to ask to find out. In contrast one of my children once attended a church service where there was a great emphasis on the collection. I was told that “collection time” was the only time in that worship service when the Bible was opened – and after a mini sermonette on giving, the ushers came around not only with collection plates but also with EFT machines. Yep, churches have different ways of raising their needed finances – but not all of them are equally edifying.
I must acknowledge that there are some real benefits to supporting your church through EFT.
For starters, you are not hunting for money last thing before you duck out the door on Sunday. And there are those times when we forget. That happens to everyone. I heard a story once of a Billy Graham evangelistic rally where the Mayor of the city was sitting on the podium next to the evangelist when the collection was taken. The Mayor, with some embarrassment, leaned over and told Billy that he had forgotten his wallet and could he lend him some money – so Billy Graham gave the man a $50 note!
EFT is also a method of planned giving as you calmly sit down and work out how much of your income will be devoted to the Lord’s work and transferred electronically to the church. It helps prevent the problem of the Lord just getting our left-overs.
It also avoids the problem of not supporting our church when we are on holidays. Many of us when were young were told by our parents to make sure we paid our church money before we went away because the Pastor and his family still needed to eat while we were on holidays. With EFT that is assured – unless of course you cancel it while you go on holidays…?!?
But it seems to me that there are some down-sides as well. We’re now separating our giving from our worship and in some ways I find that a pity. Last week I wrote about “View from the Pulpit”. One of the things we Pastors also see from the pulpit is the collection bag being passed down the pews and these days, in increasing instances, that is all that is done: the collection bag is passed on but nothing is actually put in it. Are those folk not missing out on the opportunity to worship God in their giving? Some churches have worked out a way around this. When worshippers arrive at church there is a small box in the foyer with tokens that read: “I gave electronically”. Those tokens are then placed in the collection bag when the gifts of God’s people are collected. Later the deacons put them back in the box in the foyer for next time. This at least recognises that also our giving is an act of worship.
But I have a more important concern that perhaps in this way our children are not being taught to give. I can’t help but notice from the pulpit that at times the collection bag is passed on not only by Mum and Dad but by the whole family. These folk may possibly support the church very generously with their EFT payments each week – but are their children aware of the need for the church to be supported financially? When I was a mere lad we were poor migrants who had arrived here with virtually just the clothes on our backs but come Sunday morning we kids were each given our “sixpence” to put in the collection. Mum and Dad were teaching us the discipline of giving. Maybe, if for no other reason, we should, for the sake of our children, take up the idea of tokens to put in the collection bag when it comes to that time of the worship service.